If you are seeking to learn ‘How To Be Single’, I don’t suggest you take notes from Christian Ditter’s latest film, as in fact it is a story about love, despair, pain, loss, joy and ultimately the innate desire not to be single.
Undeniably, this Valentine’s weekend film has a limited amount to offer, with mild, yet rare, humour, a flawed storyline and a sense of recognition for what it actually is: a sub-par romantic comedy.
Dakota Johnson plays Alice, a timid and seemingly innocent newbie on the single-market, having just ‘taken a break’ from longtime college boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun) as a means to discover herself and experience life in New York to the fullest. As soon as she begins working she runs into trouble, being shown the ropes by Rebel Wilson’s mischievous and troublesome character, Robin, who introduces Alice to the ‘correct’ way of being single.
There’s a sense of an unrealistic environment in which our characters find themselves, where New York is a utopia for dating, partying, hooking up and living in rather large apartments. As far as I am aware, it is rather seldom and difficult for a paralegal to be able to afford a nice and well-positioned apartment in the high-priced New York market.
While on the topic of characters and their apartments, in the early stages of the film we see Lucy (played by Alison Brie) move into her new residence on top of Tom’s Bar, an obsessive woman committed to meeting her perfect man through concocting a flawless computer algorithm, something she learns is not natural and cannot work.
A large portion of this films lazy writing is related to Lucy, as she randomly slots in and out of the story, arriving at appropriate times just to fill up some blank space and time. In the last quarter of the film, she vanishes for close to 25 minutes, returning for a few, then gone, once again. A truly irrelevant feature of ‘How To Be Single’.
The bar is managed and run by Tom, a playboy bachelor interesting in one night affairs and then saying a quick and ‘polite’ goodbye. He was a welcomed addition, driving along the otherwise boring scenes revolving around Lucy, and offering a cool bar setting for the girls to party and mingle at.
Another character whom I thought was bereft of any genuine substance was Robin.
Rebel Wilson doesn’t hold back one iota with her Australian accent, and as an Australian myself, it made me feel rather awkward and ashamed; she sounded obnoxious and vexatious. Her contribution to the film was limited, as it was almost exclusively comic relief, a sad but true evaluation of her character. She always seemed to arrive when Alice was in need, or, when the writers believed that we the audience were in need of some uplifting and funny moments. I must admit, some of her remarks were rather risible, but the rest just weren’t special, memorable, and struggled to reap laughs throughout my cinema which was filled to the brim. Sadly, most of her attempted jokes revolved around her size and weight, a concept that’s laughable once or twice, but eventually becomes demeaning and unnecessary.
To complete our powerhouse foursome of single women, we have Alice’s older sister Meg, who is played rather well by Leslie Mann. Meg is conflicted; reaching her 40’s with no husband, children or support system other than her exhausting job and younger sister, she is an emotional wreck. Upon meeting suitable partners, she is weird and grapples with behaving according to social norms, fully consumed by her occupation as a doctor. Even though I had a lack of care towards her situation, it was hard to watch her struggles in attempting to have a baby, enduring tears and lonely emotional nights.
Now, logic states that these women would find themselves men, and the men in this film were in an abundance, like the women. You see, in a film that is only 110 minutes, it is quite a challenge to cover the stories of almost 10 characters, resulting in a very jumpy plot, where no scenes or characters are properly fleshed out and explored, but rather touched on for several minutes, and then forgotten about for quite some time.
The only commendable male performance in ‘How To Be Single’ was that of Jason Mantzoukas. As a longtime fan of FX Networks’ ‘The League’, I was very happy to see Rafi in the movie. Here he played George, a well-acted character who brought some genuine laughs, surpassing Wilson’s ability to do so. His concluding diatribe towards Tom was nothing but a laugh-out-loud sequence, as his strange and quirky personality shone through and stole the show.
Alice’s central relationship is with David (played by Damon Wayans Jr.), an established businessman and father. David is grief stricken, as the love of his life, his wife, tragically passed away and now he is dealing with the aftermath, while still raising his cute and gleeful daughter. There is quite a juxtaposition in terms of the quality of the scenes with David. Initially, he and Alice meet, and with no explanation or warning, we move three months into the future, where they have been dating and Alice spends time with the daughter, Phoebe. What felt extremely rushed and came out of nowhere was later followed by a truly heartfelt scene, in which David and Alice reminisce and talk about their beloved wife and mother, a spectacle that almost brought me to tears.
As bad as I have made this film sound, it was by no means a disaster.
While most of the characters were, at least to me, boring, hardly fleshed out and generic, the film is one that I could easily recommend to couples or anyone just wanting to sit back and watch something light-hearted for a quiet night at home. The soundtrack was absolutely fantastic, always picking appropriately fitting tunes and beats for all scenes. Right from the beginning the atmosphere was set, with a beckoning playing of the upbeat and fun ‘Intoxicated’ by Martin Solveig & GTA. Find the full soundtrack here.
‘How To Be Single’ is not a memorable movie and it won’t go down on any lists as being one of the best films of all time, but what it offers is a relaxed and occasionally amusing film, best watched with friends or a loved one. If it were me, I wouldn’t waste my money on seeing this movie this weekend, but rather wisely spend it on seeing ‘Deadpool’. However, if romcoms are what you’re into, or are your kind of guilty-pleasure films, then by all means, go learn the tricks of not how to be single, but actually how to find yourself and be in a relationship.
My Rating: 6/10
“Welcome to the party.”